First cyclist fatality on Barclays Cycle Superhighway occurs at junction described as "a bloody disgrace"

Familiar elements of a London cycling death include tipper lorry and road layout posing danger to vulnerable users

by Simon_MacMichael   October 25, 2011  

Broken bike (pic by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

A man aged in his 50s has become the first cyclist to die on one of London’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways. The incident bears some of the all-too-familiar elements of a London cycling fatality, with a tipper lorry involved, and taking place at a busy junction described by a local blogger as “a bloody disgrace.”

The cyclist, who has not yet been named, died during yesterday’s morning rush hour on the Bow flyover roundabout in East London. Police have arrested a man on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, reports the BBC.

Transport for London (TfL) confirmed that it was the first case of a cyclist being killed on one of the capital’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways.

A spokesman said: "We are extremely sorry to learn of the tragic death of a male cyclist, following a collision with an HGV on the Bow Road roundabout."

He added that said TfL had worked on a number of safety initiatives including introducing safety mirrors and launching an awareness campaign highlighting the dangers to cyclists of riding up the inside of lorries.

By the end of the year, TfL will also have rolled out an “on bike” safety training course for lorry drivers in the capital, and an HGV cycle safety guide on the internet, while vehicles belonging to contractors used by TfL will need to carry “cycle safe” technology.

The organisation has, however, come under fire from cycle campaigners in recent months due to issues affecting cyclists’ safety including the proposed removal of a temporary 20mph speed limit at Blackfriars Bridge.

The junction is yet another in London that has long been viewed as a danger spot for cyclists and pedestrians alike. In a compelling blog piece posted today, local blogger Diamond Geezer says: “the Bow Flyover roundabout is a bloody disgrace, both for pedestrians and cyclists, as was tragically proven yesterday morning.”

Insisting that “TfL's overriding priority at the Bow Flyover roundabout is clearly vehicular traffic,” he adds that while “Bow's new floating towpath, constructed at a cost of £2.4m… enables cyclists and pedestrians to pass underneath the roundabout in perfect safety,” it only benefits those traveling North-South, at a junction where the major traffic flow is East-West.

Earlier this year, Greater London Assembly Member John Biggs asked Mayor Boris Johnson, "What progress has been made to provide safe pedestrian crossings at the Bow Flyover/roundabout on the A12?"

In his reply to the Labour Assembly Member, who represents City & East, Mr Johnson said: “TfL have been unable so far to find an immediate solution for providing controlled at-grade pedestrian crossings at Bow Roundabout that does not push the junction over capacity and introduce significant delays to traffic.”

Currently, four of the planned 12 Barclays Cycle Superhighways have been installed, with the remainder due to come into operation by 2015.

18 user comments

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Such a shame.

"TFL. Helping motorists since 2000. Sod the rest of you."

posted by Coleman [328 posts]
25th October 2011 - 9:13

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The irony of recommending cyclists do not undertake lorries and then painting brightly coloured cycle lanes down the inside approaches to junctions seems to escape TFL...

the cycle lanes in this city mostly make life MORE dangerous for cyclists.

Why can't the planners take a research trip to Holland / Denmark and set about designing our streets to be safe and pleasent?

posted by gifftopher [9 posts]
25th October 2011 - 10:01

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Terrible news.

This flyover is one of the hangovers from 60s urban motoway thinking. The flyover is above what was planned to be London Ringway 1 (a motorway style ring road around the north and south circular).
TfL need to make streets work for everyone, not just cars.

posted by thereverent [265 posts]
25th October 2011 - 10:27

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Not all sections of the cycle superhighways have been well thought out as this shows. It is rather sad that it takes a fatality for TfL to listen to criticisms in most instances.

I know the A23/Clapham High Road/Kennington Road/Kennington Park Road junction mentioned elsewhere rather well and note that this has been listed as one of the bad ones, with good reason. I've cycled and driven across it, which has made me all too aware of its shortcomings. The blue lane stops abruptly and then shifts over a lane without much warning for any road user.

Because I've cycled it and driven it I know that cyclists using the blue lane may want to switch over lanes. But most vehicle drivers won't know this and for those cyclists who don't check before moving over, assuming that the drivers have seen the lane switch, there is a risk.

It is an accident waiting to happen.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1748 posts]
25th October 2011 - 11:35

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I'm about to cycle in London for the first time. Should I follow signs, cyclestreets.net or what looks simple/quietish on a map?

posted by a.jumper [575 posts]
25th October 2011 - 12:27

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a.jumper, I'd aim to use quiet roads if you can (it's nicer anyway!). Plan your route, don't be afraid to stop and check your map.

Use the usual road rules - don't hug the side of the road too much, make eye contact with other drivers, make sure people know you are there. In London, watch out more for loony pedestrians/other cyclists/taxis/cars/buses - red lights don't mean what they do in other parts of the country! (I'm not implying that all of the aforementioned road/pavement users go through red lights, I'm suggesting that there are more people who do though) Don't be afraid though - many more people live in London than in other cities so the number of accidents is therefore likely to appear to be higher per capita (I don't know for a fact if there are more/less/similar accident numbers in London compared to the rest of the UK. Plus they are usually better publicised.

posted by Myriadgreen [88 posts]
25th October 2011 - 12:51

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a.jumper - Got to agree with Myriadgreen here - planning is the key. I've been cycling in London a long time and it's fine. You do have to be aware of what's going around you and keep an eye out for BMW drivers, pedestrians and skip lorries in particular but plenty of people do cycle safely in the city. If you're planning to ride to work it's worth remembering that the most direct route isn't always the the safest or the quickest for that matter. A good policy is to try a few practice rides at weekends to establish a route with lower volume traffic levels. Sure, the volumes increase during the week but you can generally work out what will be busy and what won't pretty easily. At two companies where I used to work I had 16 km (10 mile) journeys in either direction and never had any problems. One of those routes took me right across the centre of London but by planning it out, I got a really good route that though seemingly indirect, was pretty quick.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1748 posts]
25th October 2011 - 13:12

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I'm with Old Ridgeback and Myriadgreen regarding scouting out a route. Weekends are a good time to do that (although obviously the reality during the week can be different as some roads become rat-runs and others get clogged with school run 4x4s).

When I used to commute from Greenwich into the centre of town, I planned a route that pretty much took me along the Thames Path, it included a bit of on-road at various places but certainly beat mixing it with the traffic all the way in.

Plus, features of the ride such as the sight of Tower Bridge of a morning, or giving a cheery nod to Patrick Stewart as he jogged alongside the river at Rotherhithe (my wife's words? "Bloody hell, it's Captain Picard...!") meant that the ride was well worth the extra few minutes it took.

Obviously I was lucky in that my A to B enabled me to take a route like that, but wherever you are in London you should be able to find an interesting route that doesn't take you miles out of the way.

Door to door commuting (walk to station, get onto packed train, walk at other end) took an hour or so, assuming there were no problems with the train, and being wedged up against someone's armpit was never the nicest way to start the day.

Not that I saved significant time commuting by bike once you factor in stopping for a leisurely coffee somewhere round Borough Market and a shower at the other end, but it was a much nicer way to start the day - one of the few things I miss about not having a 9-5 job in London any more... plus, I wasn't late once, and usually made it into work in time for the free breakfast on offer for anyone getting there before 0820 each day.

Of course, the breakfast bap I ordered each day may explain why my commute had minimal impact on my weight... Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [6923 posts]
25th October 2011 - 13:42

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Sorry, just a ps for a.jumper's benefit - obviously, don't know where you are commuting from/to (if you share that it might help with suggestions) but for example, in the centre of town, studying the A-Z and choosing roads parallel to the major routes can help find some great bike routes, many of these will have features (no right turn when crossing key routes for example) that make them unattractive to drivers looking to avoid jams.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [6923 posts]
25th October 2011 - 13:47

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Simon, you had free breakfast for getting in by 0820? Sounds like an awesome place to work! Agree with all your comments though - I cycle to work most days, and the only days when I'm late are those when I take the train. My bike commute is slightly quicker if you count showering time, but I don't, since I'd have to shower at home before taking the train - all in, I can get up about 30 minutes later if I'm riding in to work than I can if I take the train Smile

posted by step-hent [609 posts]
25th October 2011 - 13:55

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Thanks for the tips. FWIW, it's a relatively short Paddington station to Cavendish Square commute for which the tube looks annoying (as well as relatively expensive and crowded) so I'm dithering between Boris bike (should be 15-20mins?) or just walking it (35mins?). A weekend dry-run isn't very attractive, but Street View looks like most routes I'd try aren't very cycle-friendly so maybe I'll walk it the first time and decide then.

posted by a.jumper [575 posts]
25th October 2011 - 14:12

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Totally agree Bow is not for the novice or naieve - wasn't there another fatal there (or another feeding the A12) less than a year ago when the truck (also a construction site vehicle) did not stop after turning left through the cyclist.

I've used that route - North-South and had (pretty strong) words with a tractor unit driver who tried to take me out on one occasion (as you know Tony I can match an RSM for the level of volume and content)

I find the spoutings about not going up the inside and need for more mirrors a pile of rubbish from those who are not seriously experiencing the real world of riding in traffic.

Only one possible gain from this sad incident is that as a public transport system there is likely to be a far more rigorous inquiry into the sequence of events, and the causal factors.

One might also question why, when we used to be able to have trucks where the driver was sitting at eye-level with the pedestrians and cyclists outside, do we need to have truck drivers so set-apart from other road users that thay can even drive over a car and kill all inside, and walk away with a slapped wrist.

Perhaps those at St Martins might reflect that a way to ensure that Min Joo Lee did not die without some positive force for stopping the carnage is to see the closing sequence from Robin Webbs memorial film to his daughter, killed by a truck near St Thomas's, and recognise that trucks do not have to be so inherently dangerous in their fundamental design.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [357 posts]
25th October 2011 - 14:17

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Actually that Paddington Stn-Cavendish Square run was on my old route from S London up to Swiss Cottage. It is feasible to select some back routes. Boris bikes don't appeal to me to be honest and if I was doing that run I'd consider a Brompton or some other kind of compact folder. Walking it the first few times isn't a bad idea at all.

Not only is the tube crowded and costly, it's also smelly and dirty.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1748 posts]
25th October 2011 - 15:10

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Nice walk through Marylebone too and plenty of places to stop for coffee. Did I mention I'm addicted to coffee? Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [6923 posts]
25th October 2011 - 15:38

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"Inside every car is a pedestrian, just Waiting to get out..." S.J.L.

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posted by scotter [64 posts]
25th October 2011 - 16:27

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A.jumper as a veteran of ten years cycling to work in London I recommend looking at the A to Z and planning a route via backstreets. Boris bikes are very unusual beasts indeed, about as far removed from cycling as you can get on two wheels but they a quicker than walking. If you do it, definitely register for a key rather than faff about paying on the day.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [291 posts]
25th October 2011 - 21:06

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TFL are actually a damned disgrace. It is quite clear that, although they are happy to spend money on advertising campaigns extolling the virtues of getting on one's bike, they do very little of actual substance in increasing safety on the streets for the cyclists they appear to be encouraging. In TFL's case talk is definitely cheap, action way, way behind.

Take the example of London bus operators: I've been complaining to TFL regularly about the standard of bus drivers with regard to their behaviour towards cyclists, particularly the rampant ASL infringement cyclists experience daily at the hand (or should that be wheel) of bus drivers. The result: TFL now generally ignore complaints, not even bothering to respond. Is it any surprise, therefore, that concerns about blue route implementation go unheeded?

Yes, of course we'll get the usual TFL spokesperson expressing regret at the latest fatality/injury to occur but will we actually see any action?

I seriously doubt it.

Talk is cheap, action so much more.........unlikely.

But that's politics for you.

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posted by TiNuts [88 posts]
25th October 2011 - 21:20

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Just to round off: thanks all. Walked it there, Boris'd it back, mostly along George Street. Better than I expected: 1 taxi nut but about 50 great taxis. More bad cyclists tbh but I guess they're mainly endangering themselves. The obnoxious vehicle-hindering back street road layouts means London seems easier on a bicycle than in a car... Easier than much of Bristol and Bath.

Not doing this for long enough to be worth the hundreds that a good folder costs. And London is smelly and dirty, not only the tube!

posted by a.jumper [575 posts]
26th October 2011 - 17:56

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